If there is one thing we can say about San Francisco, it’s that it never ceases to surprise us with its unique culture. The city is a heady mix of hip restaurants, cool bars and amazing landmarks (Golden Gate Bridge, anyone?) that are surely worthy of an Instagram. We get San Fran local Emily Teachout from Pier 2620 Hotel Fisherman’s Wharf to give us the insider scoop on the best cafes, coffee and things to do in the Bay Area.
Best Places for Breakfast
For breakfast, the best place to get the creamiest, most delicious lattes and croissants are definitely from a patisserie. Thankfully, San Francisco is filled with top-grade ones. Check out Tartine Bakery – in my opinion it is the best bakery in town. Go early or be prepared to wait in line, though I have to say it will definitely be worth your time. You’ll always want to visit Le Marais Bakery, a quaint French-influenced bakery that dishes out handmade breads and pastries. Not forgetting to Brenda’s French Soul Food – this is the place I would go if I had one final breakfast or brunch in this city. Her biscuits are to die for! Get there early (before 9am) to avoid long wait times.
600 Guerrero Street, San Francisco
Tel: +1 415 487 2600
Le Marais Bakery
2066 Chestnut Street, San Francisco
Tel: +1 415 359 9801
Brenda’s French Soul Food
652 Polk Street, San Francisco
Tel: +1 415 345 8100
Best Places for Coffee
San Francisco is definitely known for its coffee. When it comes to roasters, I definitely recommend Blue Bottle, a coffee roaster known for its drip coffee. There are other roasters that are just as popular like Ritual Coffee and Four Barrel Coffee – just do a search online to find out which coffee spots they are available at.
Make sure to check out Philz Coffee, a local chain offering dozens of different roasts. You can also customise your coffee – I personally like the Mint Mojito Iced Coffee, definitely something different from your lattes and cappuccinos! Also, Beacon Coffee & Pantry is a good place to stop for a cup. It is near the hotel, so I usually grab a cup before heading to work.
1258 Minnesota Street, San Francisco
Tel: +1 415 834 5933
Beacon Coffee & Pantry
805 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco.
Tel: +1 415 814 2551
Healthy Places for Lunch
San Fran is a haven for healthy lunches, seeing how we have so many whole-food cafes offering healthy meals to dine at. I would recommend three places: The Plant Café offers lots of delicious salads, sandwiches and smoothies. Check out its Marina branch because it is a nice place for walking and shopping, especially on Chestnut Street and Union Street. There is also Blue Barn Gourmet, which serves up huge gourmet salads (enough for leftovers!). Pick from its Upick menu where you pick exactly the salad you want from over 30 ingredients with the wide selection of dressings. I also like the Vietnamese food at Soapbox Café, a cozy spot for bahn mi, salads, vermicelli bowls and more.
The Plant Café
3342 Steiner Street, San Francisco
Tel: +1 415 931 2777
Blue Barn Gourmet
2105, Chestnut Street. San Francisco
Tel: +1 415 441 3232
The Soapbox Café
1800 Hyde Street, San Francisco
Tel: +1 415 829 7139
Places to go for Dinner
San Fran is a great place for burgers and authentic American food. I will definitely recommend Park Tavern; it is one of my all-time favourite restaurants in the city and is known for its burgers. You’d want to also try the legendary brussels sprout chips and devilled eggs. For more burgers, check out Pearl’s Deluxe Burger – you get your no-nonsense delicious burgers here, customised how you like. Or, if you want a taste of everything, just take a stroll down Ferry Building. This is a one-stop landmark for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. Make sure you also go to the amazing Farmer’s Markets every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
1652 Stockton Street, San Francisco
Tel: +1 415 989 7300
Pearl’s Deluxe Burger
708 Post Street, San Francisco
Tel: +1 415 409 6120
Top Five Things to Do in San Francisco
1. Spend an afternoon in North Beach (Little Italy/Chinatown). Check out City Lights Bookstore, a historical landmark in the city. There is also a cute stretch of shops on Grant Street close to Coit Tower. Chinatown is the largest in the United States – walk all the way to the south end of Chinatown and you will reach Union Square, which is the largest area for shopping. You can also take the Cable Car to Chinatown/Union Square if you have already walked around North Beach and don’t feel like walking uphill!
2. The Mission District is the best place to visit in the city. It is my number-one recommendation. And It is close to many of my food recommendations! Walk Valencia Street and Mission Street to get an idea of old San Francisco (Mission Street) vs. new San Francisco (Valencia Street). There are tons of food outlets and shops to explore from about 16th to 24th Street. Check out the Balmy Alley Murals and the lesser known (but incredible) Clarion Alley Murals. Both of these represent so much of what San Francisco is about. When you work up an appetite, get that burrito and go sit at Mission Dolores Park, a recently redone park featuring amazing views of the city. For a fun activity that is unique to San Francisco, stop by Urban Putt – an indoor mini-golf course. It’s definitely not just for kids.
3. Hayes Valley is also a must-visit. This is a small neighbourhood near City Hall/Civic Center. There are lots of cute boutique shops and cafes. Walk Hayes Street from Franklin to Steiner to Alamo Square to see the iconic Painted Ladies. Head over to Haight Street to travel back in time to the ’60s and ’70s – the Haight Ashbury intersection which is the epicentre of the hippie movement that San Francisco was so known for.
4. The Embarcadero is another point of interest when visiting the city. Walk from Fisherman’s Wharf as far as you want – it’s flat and absolutely beautiful. You’ll pass the Ferry Building, AT&T Park and it eventually turns into 3rd Street, which will take you down into the Dogpatch neighbourhood, which has recently gotten very popular. Walking to the Dogpatch would take quite a while but the view is so amazing you won’t even realise it.
5. Enjoy San Francisco’s Beautiful Parks and Greenery
If you want to do more outdoor activities, you have definitely come to the right place. I just love walking in San Francisco. Definitely make your way to the Golden Gate Park – plan to spend at least three hours here just walking around. Venture out to San Francisco Botanical Gardens and Conservatory of Flowers. Another amazing park is Glen Park Canyon, which is right smack in the middle of the city. Take a walk up the Filbert & Greenwich Steps of Telegraph Hill. There are two different sets within a couple of blocks of each other. You would not believe you were still in San Francisco while walking up these steps. There’s actually a pandemonium of parrots that live on Telegraph Hill. I just walked both of them the other day at lunch and saw and listened to the parrots that inhabit the cliffside trees – such an incredibly unique experience in the middle of a city.
A Place to Listen to Jazz Music
The most popular jazz spot has to be Yoshi’s, which is located across the bay in Oakland. But it’s worth the visit for sure. It started in 1972 as a small sushi bar by founder, Yoshie Akiba. Over the years, it has earned the reputation as one of the world’s most respected jazz venues with 310 seats and state-of-the art sound system. Another place to check out is also the SF Jazz Center, which is considered the first freestanding building in America built for jazz performance (it seats up to 700). It’s pretty new (only opened in 2013) but it is fast gaining popularity as the place to be for jazz. Then there is also Biscuits and Blues and The Saloon. The former is your literal underground jazz bar that is really intimate while the latter is one of the top blues/jazz bars in the country offering daily live music.
Jack London Square, 510 Embarcadero West, Oakland
Tel: +1 510 238 9200
SF Jazz Center
201 Franklin Street, San Francisco
Tel: +1 866 920 5299
Biscuit and Blues
401 Mason Street, San Francisco
Tel: +1 415 292 2583
1232 Grant Avenue, San Francisco
Tel: +1 415 989 7666